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INDIAN CAMP 

At the lake shore there was another rowboat drawn up. The 
two Indians stood waiting. 

Nick and his father got in the stern of the boat and the 
Indians shoved it off and one of them got in to row. Uncle 
George sat in the stern of the camp rowboat. The young 
Indian shoved the camp boat off and got in to row Uncle 
George. 

The two boats started off in the dark. Nick heard the oar- 
locks of the other boat quite a way ahead of them in the mist. 
The Indians rowed with quick choppy strokes. Nick lay back 
with his father's arm around him. It was cold on the water. 
The Indian who was rowing them was working very hard, 
but the other boat moved farther ahead in the mist all 
the time. 

'Where are we going, Dad? 5 Nick asked. 

'Over to the Indian camp. There is an Indian lady very 
sick.' 

'Oh, 5 said Nick. 

Across the bay they found the other boat beached. Uncle 
George was smoking a cigar in the dark. The young Indian 

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96 INDIAN CAMP 

pulled the boat way up on the beach. Uncle George gave 
both the Indians cigars. 

They walked up from the beach through a meadow that 
was soaking wet with dew, following the young Indian who 
carried a lantern. Then they went into the woods and fol- 
lowed a trail that led to the logging road that ran back into 
the hills. It was much lighter on the logging road as the 
timber was cut away on both sides. The young Indian 
stopped and blew out his lantern and they all walked on 
along the road. 

They came around a bend and a dog came out barking. 
Ahead were the lights of the shanties where the Indian bark- 
peelers lived. More dogs rushed out at them. The two 
Indians sent them back to the shanties. In the shanty nearest 
the road there was a light in the window. An old woman 
stood in the doorway holding a lamp. 

Inside on a wooden bunk lay a young Indian woman. She 
had been trying to have her baby for two days. All the old 
women in the camp had been helping her. The men had 
moved off up the road to sit in the dark and smoke out of 
range of the noise she made. She screamed just as Nick and 
the two Indians followed his father and Uncle George into 
the shanty. She lay in the lower bunk, very big under a 
quilt. Her head was turned to one side. In the upper bunk 
was her husband. He had cut his foot very badly with an 
axe three days before. He was smoking a pipe. The room 
smelled very bad. 

Nick's father ordered some water to be put on the stove, 
and while it was heating he spoke to Nick. 

'This lady is going to have a baby, Nick,' he said. 

'I know,' said Nick. 

'You don't know,' said his father. 'Listen to me. What she 
is going through is called being in labour. The baby wants 
to be born and she wants it to be born. All her muscles are 
trying to get the baby born. That is what is happening when 
she screams.' 



INDIAN CAMP 97 

'I see,' Nick said. 

Just then the woman cried out. 

'Oh, Daddy, can't you give her something to make her 
stop screaming?' asked Nick. m 

'No. I haven't any anaesthetic,' his father said. 'But her 
screams are not important. I don't hear them because they 
are not important.' 

The husband in the upper bunk rolled over against the wall. 

The woman in the kitchen motioned to the doctor that the 
water was hot. Nick's father went into the kitchen and 
poured about half of the water out of the big kettle into a 
basin. Into the water left in the kettle he put several things 
he unwrapped from a handkerchief. 

'Those must boil,' he said, and began to scrub his hands in 
the basin of hot water with a cake of soap he had brought 
from the camp. Nick watched his father's hands scrubbing 
each other with the soap. While his father washed his hands 
very carefully and thoroughly, he talked. 

'You see, Nick, babies are supposed to be born head first, 
but sometimes they're not. When they're not they make a 
lot of trouble for everybody. Maybe I'll have to operate on 
this lady. We'll know in a little while.' 

When he was satisfied with his hands he went in and went 
to work. 

'Pull back that quilt, will you, George?' he said. 'I'd 
rather not touch it.' 

Later when he started to operate Uncle George and three 
Indian men held the woman still. She bit Uncle George on 
the arm and Uncle George said, 'Damn squaw bitch!' and 
the young Indian who had rowed Uncle George over laughed 
at him. Nick held the basin for his father. It all took a long 
time. 

His father picked the baby up and slapped it to make it 
breathe and handed it to the old woman. 

'See, it's a boy, Nick, 5 he said. 'How do you like being an 
interne?' 



98 INDIAN CAMP 

Nick said, 'All right'. He was looking away so as not to 
see what his father was doing. 

'There. That gets it,' said his father and put something 
ittto the basin. 

Nick didn't look at it. 

'Now,' his father said, 'there's some stitches to put in. You 
can watch this or not, Nick, just as you like. I'm going to 
sew up the incision I made.' 

Nick did not watch. His curiosity had been gone for a long 
time. 

His father finished and stood up. Uncle George and the three 
Indian men stood up. Nick put the basin out in the kitchen. 

Uncle George looked at his arm. The young Indian smiled 
reminiscently. 

'I'll put some peroxide on that, George,' the doctor said. 

He bent over the Indian woman. She was quiet now and 
her eyes were closed. She looked very pale. She did not 
know what had become of the baby or anything. 

'I'll be back in the morning,' the doctor said, standing up. 
'The nurse should be here from St. Ignace by noon and she'll 
bring everything we need.' 

He was feeling exalted and talkative as football players are 
in the dressing room after a game. 

'That's one for the medical journal, George,' he said. 
'Doing a Caesarian with a jack-knife and sewing it up with 
nine-foot, tapered gut leaders.' 

Uncle George was standing against the wall, looking at his 
arm. 

'Oh, you're a great man, all right,' he said. 

'Ought to have a look at the proud father. They're usually 
the worst sufferers in these little affairs,' the doctor said. 'I 
must say he took it all pretty quietly.' 

He pulled back the blanket from the Indian's head. His 
hand came away wet. He mounted on the edge of the lower 
bunk with the lamp in one hand and looked in. The Indian 
lay with his face toward the wall. His throat had been cut 



INDIAN CAMP 99 

from ear to ear. The blood had flowed down into a pool 
where his body sagged the bunk. His head rested on his left 
arm. The open razor lay, edge up, in the blankets. 

'Take Nick out of the shanty, George,' the doctor said. 

There was no need of that. Nick, standing in the- door of 
the kitchen, h*ad a good view of the upper bunk when his 
father, the lamp in one hand, tipped the Indian's head back. 

It was just beginning to be daylight when they walked 
along the logging road back toward the lake. 

'I'm terribly sorry I brought you along, Nickie,' said his 
father, all his post-operative exhilaration gone. 'It was an 
awful mess to put you through.' 

'Do ladies always have such a hard time having babies?' 
Nick asked. 

'No, that was very, very exceptional.' 

'Why did he kill himself, Daddy?' 

T don't know, Nick. He couldn't stand things, I guess.' 

'Do many men kill themselves, Daddy?' 

'Not very many, Nick.' 

'Do many women?' 

'Hardly ever.' 

'Don't they ever?' 

'Oh, yes. They do sometimes.' 

'Daddy?' 

'Yes.' 

'Where did Uncle George go?' 

'He'll turn up all right.' 

'Is dying hard, Daddy?' 

'No, I think it's pretty easy, Nick. It all depends.' 

They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father 
rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass 
jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand 
in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning. 

In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the 
boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would 
never die.